How Do We Incorporate STEM into Our Adventures?
Updated: Apr 7
In traditional classrooms, students learn science, technology, engineering and math (collectively known as the STEM courses) via books, lectures, and if they’re lucky, the occasional hands-on experiment or project.
At The Story School, however, learning STEM concepts and skills occurs organically as participants in our adventures come upon situations that require “a particular set of skills” to address. All of our activities are story-based, which means all of our participants act as heroes inside these stories — as far from the student sitting at a desk as you can possibly get.
When a hero needs to overcome an obstacle, she spares no thought for stale tropes about kids “loathing” school. Instead, she enthusiastically dives into the challenge, puts her mission and comrades first, and gathers the information she needs to succeed in her quest.
For example, heroes fighting an Ice Demon will need to determine how to melt it. Or, a team of astronaut heroes in outer space must understand the effect the vacuum that surrounds them will have on their movement. Or warriors headed into a swordfight might use the Pythagorean Theorem to determine the perfect striking distance from their opponent.
Instructors at The Story School use their backgrounds in education, science and the arts to create immersive experiences that weave STEM learning invisibly into their adventures. In many cases, leaders also incorporate the artsinto their encounters to create STEAM-based adventures and learn more about history, visual arts and even psychology.
Story School adventures run the gamut from learning chemistry by cooking potions and antidotes, learning physics by building catapults, learning architecture by designing treehouse hideouts, and even learning engineering by researching how to build a giant rabbit robot.
Heroes become well-rounded thinkers and creators as they learn about historic technology in adventures set in the Old West, or about other cultures as they delve into the myths and legends that may help them defeat an enemy, or even about developmental psychology as they analyze the motives of villains in their stories.
Lead Instructor Paul Spanagel describes all the teachers at The Story School as enthusiastic about learning itself, and relates that they often change direction mid-adventure based on the interests of their group of students. That might entail researching a new angle “on the fly,” but “modeling the process of learning is cool, and it shows we’re learners too!”
Instructor Katie Morris provides her youngest students a gallery of visual suggestions to spark their creativity, then follows their lead when planning her classes. “They may be interested in trees, and (we talk about how) they can use them later to build a house. Then they’ll draw it or create structures at their homes with pillows.”
Fencing instructor Chris Wiley describes how the recent social distancing requirements inspired him to revamp his approach to the course, morphing it from drills and in-person practice to an analysis of history, geometry and physiology. “On our quest to become fencing masters, we learn from actual fencing masters by examining old texts and illustrations as well as practicing the movesets utilized by modern fencers. Fencing was born during the Renaissance period, where intelligence and interdisciplinary study was highly valued. In a nod to that, we make sure that all the fencing we do ties math and science into our swordsmanship. We can use the Pythagorean theorem (A² + B² = C² ) to find our exact lunging distance, and use physics to analyze the most efficient way to attack with our blades. Students are more motivated to learn when there is an adventure to be had, and are more likely to remember their training when they know the reasons behind it.”
Whether participants enroll in Historical Weapons, Fencing, Points & Powers, Little Knights, Dungeons & Dragons or Wizards & Warriors camp, they are guaranteed to enjoy an exciting, immersive adventure, and certain to learn a tremendous amount about STEM and STEAM in the process.